The complexities of Indigenous disadvantage are too great for any single solution, what I know in my heart is that social enterprise and digital are the future and well worth trying to address closing the gap.
Where there are no jobs, create them, where there are gaps, there are opportunities to design solutions, tech can be leveraged to give life to a myriad of solutions. I am so glad I don’t accept the status quo, I am consistently blown away by what is possible and the generosity of Tech to embrace anyone who wants to, to get on board. So when the opportunity arose to collude with muru-D to set up an Indigenous start up weekend – I naturally dived in. Any chance to create the space for people to access untapped resources and opportunities is frankly a privilege.
The status quo had kicked in…warning it couldn’t be done, it would be a process, it would take months, years, even generations to find the Indigenous digital entrepreneurs of Australia. Clearly and thankfully they were mistaken, Indigenous Tech entrepreneurship is here and this is just the beginning, they came from remote, regional and urban areas and they just needed a workshop to get them started and connected.
It all started with a desire from Annie Parker founder of start up accelerator muru-D – an innate calling borne of its name in Aboriginal language – muru – path to and D for digital. Annie tweeted the call out for Indigenous entrepreneurs. The rest was a series of actions to get the word out including Annie talking on Lola Forester’s Black Chat program, and partnership with the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, Indigenous Digital Excellence hub, and Pollenizer turned out 11 Indigenous entrepreneurs from Perth, Cairns, Bathurst, Sydney and NT who had an idea that was either somewhat developed or undeveloped. The ideas would be curated with the support of coaches, tools and mentors over Saturday and Sunday.
Pollenizer’s start up science workshop gave participants a number of tools like the lean canvas to form their ideas and solutions. A big focus is on validating the idea with potential customers and on being adaptable to meet market needs. Great tools on developing an elevator pitch and pitching to your audience.
Two days, eleven entrepreneurs resulting in 5 pitches – that’s a pretty incredible result. The five pitches were developed over the weekend as teams naturally formed around areas of interest – the arts and culture team , the legal platform team, the wearables security team, the Indigenous accreditation team and the Aboriginal health team.
The transformation from Day 1 to Day 2 was amazing to watch, people coming out of their shells, getting more confident, more deadly, getting clearer about their ideas, their customers and developing their ability to pitch and their capacity to monetize their enterprise. After various hustles the teams gathered their post it notes, laptops and presentations and delivered the deadliest pitches on Sunday afternoon in Redfern.
Reece pitched Culturally appropriate health messages for pregnant Indigenous women. Zoe, Brooke and Eddie pitched Wearable technology for security (sunglasses, handbags, wallets). Nancia, Angie and Mikaela pitched BlackMarket linking art to artist’s culture and stories through augmented reality. Brian and Michael pitched LawMart – legal market place to connect people with specialist lawyers. Torres and Shelley pitched Rating Indigenous friendly corporations. The pitches were excellent – clear and concise, delivered with quiet confidence. I was privileged to be a part of witnessing this workshop, the learning all round was simply amazing. I learnt that there is a humility in understanding first people’s way and wisdom, their connection to country, family and community.
On the last day one of the participants said he really missed his family and the calm of the country, he found Sydney too hurried and busy, I had to agree and I learnt that there is a humility in understanding first people’s way and wisdom, their connection to country, family and community. I learned about Pollenizer’s start up science teachings and tools and their ability to adapt a workshop to meet participants’ needs. I learnt that there is a desire to support Indigenous digital entrepreneurs access the resources, tools and programs they need to get their start ups going. I already knew muru-D’s commitment and was chuffed they asked me to be a part of it. I did learn they are willing to do whatever it takes to get this right and have Indigenous people part of the development of this workshop.
The 11 entrepreneurs have tapped into the entrepreneurial ecosystem, they have the tools and networks to keep developing their ideas. They are now plugged in to the vast amount of startup and tech resources available through muru-D and Pollenizer’s extensive networks. They will guide the refinement of the workshop so that other Indigenous entrepreneurs may access the same in other locations and settings. At the end of the workshop, Annie Parker said “Keep working at your ideas, look what you achieved in 2 days, take the criticism as learning and I look forward to seeing you back here in 6 or 12 months time and see where you are at, hear your stories and see your achievements.”
I too can’t wait to see where these deadly entrepreneurs go forth and do good – they showed us a glimpse of what they are made of this one weekend in Redfern in July 2015, I know no matter what, they will continue to inspire and thrive. Follow these innovators on Twitter @murudau @theNCIE @IndigenousDX @pollenizer
Anne-Marie Elias is a consultant in innovation for social change. She is an honorary Associate of the Design Innovation Research Centre and the Centre for Local Government at UTS.